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By Marisa Donelan [email protected]
Article Launched: 07/16/2008 06:01:32 AM EDT

Gardner Police Lt. Gerald Poirier said his greatest accomplishment in 35 years in law enforcement is working with the regional team of drug officers he's headed for the last eight years.
Poirier, 56, commander of the North Worcester County Drug Task Force, said the undercover officers in the task force have continually crossed jurisdictions and aided each other in making drug busts and solving drug-related crime.
"We've got some incredibly good front-line personnel who do some very dangerous undercover work," he said during an interview Tuesday. "They tend to stay away from the publicity, but they're the backbone of the task force."
Poirier retired Tuesday after a career spent entirely on the Gardner Police Department.
He said Leominster Police Lt. Robert Healey will assume his role as commander, overseeing the task force, which covers several communities, including Gardner, Fitchburg, Leominster and Lunenburg.
Poirier said he's seen changes in crime trends, but the drug trade and addiction have remained the top cause of criminal behavior.
Poirier estimated 90 percent of the robberies, burglaries and larcenies in the region are related to substance abuse.
Addiction ruins people of all races, ages and backgrounds, he said -- not just the drug users, but their victims in thefts and other violent crimes.
"The misery of drug addiction is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," he said. "It's like a cancer." Even people who use drugs on a smaller scale, or infrequently, contribute to a deadly and worldwide drug trade, something that likely doesn't cross their mind if they're looking for a high, Poirier said.

The lifelong Gardner resident said he plans to "kick back" in his retirement, though he joked he might be bored by Tuesday night after finally going home from the job he loves.
Poirier is a Mount Wachusett Community College graduate and holds a bachelor's degree from Anna Maria College and a master's degree from Western New England College.
Poirier theorizes drug trade and addiction could be quelled if the money source was cut off -- there are too many second-hand retailers accepting stolen goods for resale without checking identification.
"The very hard work of the drug task force is only temporary," he said. "If you examine all the funding sources that an addict uses, it could ultimately put a break in the 'food chain' of drug sales."
Poirier said he would have liked to make pawn-shop owners and second-hand retailers responsible for not selling to known criminals, but laws prevent police from making that distinction, he said.
"I cannot give out criminal information to civilians, and that's dumb," he said. "If somebody has stayed clean for five years, then fine, their name (should come) off the list. But if someone can't stay clean for five minutes, maybe we should let society know that these people are causing problems."
He said a major help in solving crimes regionally has been reaching out to the public -- by giving local media as much information about unsolved crimes, Poirier said, suspects have turned up quickly.
Following the Good Friday church-desecration -- six area churches were spray-painted with anti-Christian messages -- Poirier said he put an e-mail out to every news outlet in the region.
"I said, 'This is going to be too easy,' " he said.
The alleged perpetrator, a 19-year-old Phillipston man, turned himself in within days.
"The people who are doing outrageous acts like that are bragging and laughing about it," Poirier said. "If you put all the information out there, information comes back ... In a lot (of cases where Poirier involved the media) I've never had to go out and look for these people."
The task force members are successful across the region because they know the residents, the career criminals and the neighborhoods, Poirier said.
"It's local cops working a regional problem," he said.
In his years as a police officer, Poirier said he's known people who have gone from addiction to sobriety -- their choices to become sober have not only helped the community, but they've helped police.
Some of the former addicts have provided invaluable insight into the local drug trade, he said. "We have had some really great success stories," he said. "There is hope."
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